Korean superstitions can include anything from the supernatural to the completely mundane but is it worth being dismissed, saying that none of them make sense?
We don’t think so.
Let’s take a look at some common Korean superstitions and see if there are reasons behind them.
1) Death by fans
Many Koreans believe that sleeping in a room with an electric fan turned on can be fatal. It is believed that the fan can cause hypothermia, suffocation, or even cause the air in the room to become toxic.
It all started in the late 1920s when a national newspaper warned its readers about how electric fans can cause medical risks like facial paralysis, nausea and even breathing difficulties!
People even claim that if you sleep in a room with the fan turned on, your body temperature will drop drastically and/or the amount of air in the room will run out, resulting in your unfortunate death.
Is it true though?
Some say it might be a ploy by the government to limit electricity usage during the energy crisis in the 1970s. There is no scientifical proof claiming that using electrical fan causes death. That being said, we do think it’s a good idea to sleep in a room that has proper air ventilation.
2) Identity stealing mice
This is a hilarious twist on a taboo that we have in many other Asian countries.
It’s said that you’re not supposed to cut your fingernails or toenails at night.
According to the Korean myth, a mouse will end up eating your nail clippings, changing it into a human that looks like you.
This doppelganger will, later on, steal your identity and your soul!
Sounds like a sci-fi movie to us but is there logic behind it?
In the old days, where there was no proper electricity, cutting your nails at night would be quite dangerous.
You could’ve either clip your nails too close hurting your hands and feet or there might be stray nail clippings here and there.
The superstition was created to prevent these dangerous scenarios. That does make sense.
3) Names in red
Koreans are always careful to avoid writing a person’s name in red.
They say that in the past, red ink was used on the family register to write names of people who have passed away.
Writing names in red was associated with the dead so much so that they were even used on funeral banners.
This superstition is still common these days meaning no living person’s name is written in red.
Red ink was used to write dead people’s name, but it was only to differentiate the dead from the living.
That being said, we do understand that death is a sensitive topic in Korea and why a lot of people would take this superstition seriously.
4) Whistling at night
It is a pretty common superstition in Korea that whistling at night would invite ghosts and spirits to your home.
Another version involves summoning snakes instead of ghosts to your household.
Two very inconvenient situations that people can do without.
Is there any truth behind it though?
If you are a believer of the supernatural, we guess you might accept the part about summoning spirits but scientifically speaking, it doesn’t really happen.
Also, snakes lack an outer ear so they can only feel movement through vibrations on the ground.
So rest assured that it’s highly unlikely that you can attract them through whistling.
5) Blinded by butterflies
Possibly one of the oddest superstition we have on our list.
Koreans believe that if you touch your eyes after touching a butterfly or a moth, you’ll go blind!
Logically it doesn’t make sense. Or does it?
It actually does!
So were we!
Butterflies and moths are active pollen carriers hence there is bound to be pollen residue on their body.
If you’re are allergic to pollen, touching a butterfly can be a bad idea.
Although not to the extent of making you blind, the effects of pollen allergies do include red, itchy, watery, puffy, and burning eyes which can make it difficult for you to see or even open your eyes.
If you’re interested, you can know more about pollen and its effects here.
Unfortunately, the older generation didn’t know how to explain this phenomenon and settled on going blind instead.
Definitely an interesting way of preventing allergies.
6) Good looking babies
Undoubtedly there are many superstitions surrounding a woman who’s expecting.
Believing that the appearance of your food contributes to the appearance of your baby is one of them.
It is said that if a pregnant woman eats beautifully presented food during her pregnancy, she’ll be more likely to give birth to a good looking child.
However, if she is feasting on meals that are not presented properly, she will likely end up with an average looking child.
Think it’s true?
Although beautifully presented food might increase the appetite of a pregnant woman, there is no proof whatsoever about it making the baby more beautiful.
This superstition is definitely just a myth.
7) Front door mirrors
Mirrors feature prominently in most superstitions around the world.
In Korea, it’s strongly advised to avoid putting the mirrors directly in front of the front door, to avoid deflecting good luck that’s coming your way.
Hmm… What do you think?
We don’t think so.
At most, the mirror might reflect the sunlight that’s outside but that’s about it!
Like all aspects of culture, beliefs, yes that includes superstitions too, give an insight on peoples lives, what are the sensitive issues in the culture and how they respond to it.
Even though most superstitions sound absurd when you really look into it, some do have logical explanations.
We hope it’s been a fun read!
Know more Korean superstitions?
Comment down below!